How much do you really know about the most interesting neighborhood names in NYC? Midtown East may be self-explanatory, but what actually goes down in Hell’s Kitchen? New York’s neighborhoods have origins in everything from the Dutch to developers, resulting in a bit of wacky nomenclature. So the next time you’re out to find the best restaurants and bars in the Bronx or hunting for the best New York pizzas in Staten Island, impress your friends with these facts about some of New York’s most interestingly named hoods.
Most interesting neighborhood names in NYC
This tony neighborhood in the Bronx lives up to its moniker: The waterfront properties often come with deep-water docks and beach access. But the tiny enclave was actually named for the Country Club of Westchester, which was built on Eastchester Bay in 1881. Good luck snagging a house here, though. Demand is so high that properties are known to change hands without the use of a broker.
This neighborhood within Long Island City traces its roots back to 1642, when Dutch citizens were granted a license to settle in Queens. And while the name may sound ominous, “kill” is actually the Dutch word for “little stream.” The specific stream the name refers to was a tributary of Newtown Creek—the dividing line between Queens and Brooklyn.
While debate rages over the origin of the name of this Manhattan neighborhood, the explanations all share a similar thread: At its inception, Hell’s Kitchen was not a desirable place to inhabit. Today, of course, the area buzzes with bars and restaurants, but it was once the redoubt to gangs both real (The Gophers) and fictional (the area was the setting for West Side Story).
This Bronx neighborhood surely takes the crown as New York’s biggest tongue twister (it’s SPY-tun DIE-vul, by the way). Its name in Dutch refers to a local creek with waters that were so tumultuous it was known as a “spitting devil.” Those waters were rerouted in the 1930s, leaving 52 acres of Manhattan (the Marble Hill neighborhood) actually on the Bronx side of the river.
This micro-neighborhood in Harlem makes up in importance what it lacks in size. While occupying only two streets, the late 1800s-era buildings within it are some of the most architecturally significant in the city. The colloquial name emerged as a nod to the beauty and impressiveness of the homes: If you could afford to live here, you had truly worked for it.
Named after early settler John Throckmorton (at least, after a fashion), this waterfront neighborhood in the Bronx actually has two commonly used spellings: Throggs and Throgs. Residents prefer the double G, while the city uses only one. It’s known especially for its abundance of water-related activities: There are beach clubs, boating and fishing during the warmer months. For landlubbers, The New York Tennis Club is actually the oldest in the city.